Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tortoise and the Hare Clerking Part 4: The Machine!

This is a running series of Tortoise and the Hare comparisons of the different stations of my job. I have not updated this with a new post in so long that even longtime readers will be left faintly confused. They might ask "I don't remember this stuff. Is this series from before the internet when your blog was mimeographed and deposited in my mailbox?"  If they did ask this I would have answered  "Mimeographed? Huh, I don't, it was, oh, you're joking! Oh you!" Actually, I wouldn't say anything like that. I'd say something incredibly hilarious back, but I can't think of what it would be here because of a cut on my finger.

Anyway, if you missed, or forgot this ancient series you can see my introductory blogpost for more explanation here. But that's really unnecessary because, briefly, it is a cross comparison of how the different aspects of my job respectively suit the slow and steady worker (tortoise) and the volatile sprinter/loafer worker (hare).

So then, the machine.

As you may or may not know we have a giant automated check in machine. One to three hours a day we work tending this machine. There has never been any part of my job more perfectly suited for the hare, more exactly designed to the strengths of the sprinter/loafer worker than this so called Automated Materials Handling machine. And, as you may guess (Wait! Don't read further. See if you can guess! Ready? I'm going to continue, do you have your guess?), the hare's opposite, the tortoise, is exquisitely ill suited to the machine. Perhaps the main reason for all of this is one of balance. The machine is an almost perfect expression of the tortoise. It is stolid, untiring, relentless, slow, and steady. The exhaust, so to speak, of all its industry is erratic, uneven, and almost randomly overwhelming or non existent. If you try to slowly and steadily keep up with the machine you will, figuratively, but conceivably literally, be ground into the machine's giant maw. Crunched up like a bit of lettuce. I have seen tortoises (no, not real animal tortoises, but what fun that would be!) steadily feeding books into the machine while so many things are amiss with it that their actions are incapable of producing any positive result, almost like if they were putting books on a cart and someone took the cart away, but they continued to put the books on the cart, imagining constructive activity as their books dropped absurdly to the ground at their feet. A hare, spending five minutes frantically attending to the machine's problems in that above mentioned problem situation, will produce so much more positive numbers of work than the plodding tortoise worker will in two hours of steady labor that the hare could go lock themselves in the bathroom and shoot up heroin for the remainder of their work assignment and still come out on top.

The point here is not that hares use smack. Hares don't use smack! Nor is it that tortoises are stupid. It is that some work situations are very much better for one archetype than the other. The best worker should probably have at least a bit of both the tortoise and the hare in them. Or, this is unfair because we only have evidence of the machine as so much one way. So, as far as my job goes, you'd better have at least a bit of the hare in you to draw on, or, when your time comes on the machine, you will suck.

To recap and sum up:

1. I find jokes about mimeographs only very faintly funny.

2. It stands to reason that our materials handling machine is of the family Testudines, along with terrapins and turtles.

3. No one to our knowledge is "shooting up" in our staff bathrooms.

4. This is in no way meant as a contest. Tortoises and hares are both endowed with valuable skills and approaches. Though I did not mention it, under the right circumstances (machine humming along beautifully, quiet day, lots of boxes to process) a good tortoise can get a lot done on the machine.

5. Hares are so great on the machine that if a tortoise were to challenge them to a race on the machine they could start, get a nice lead, and totally take a long nap if they wanted.


  1. Usually, on some older post like this, I get alerted that I need to approve a new comment, and the new comment is bizarre gibberish spam that simply needs to be deleted. So it is oddly refreshing to merely be greeted, as from like some tiny voice in the wilderness.

    hi to you too.


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.